By Brianna Lopez
Opening night audiences at Barry’s production of Marie Antoinette erupted in applause when Valeria Vega took the stage for her final bow.
On April 7, Vega poured her heart out on the stage at the Broad Auditorium, delivering a 5-star performance as the Queen of France.
Vega radiated confidence in her role, falling fully into her character with passionate facial expressions, captivating body language, and a startling scream that prevented audiences from ever getting bored. Even more, her aggressive opening and closing of her handheld fan was just obnoxious enough to encapsulate the materialistic and self-centered queen embodied.
A big part of her success was her looking the part—a testament to the talent and historical knowledge of the costume design team. Marie Antoinette’s dress was pink and her jewelry flashy; she had a baseball-sized ring on her finger that actually glistened under the lights at Broad, blinding the audience for just a few seconds—but never long enough that we stopped looking at her.
Marie truly was the center of attention in all aspects. She did not leave the stage at any point before intermission, going from scene to scene walking back and forth between two seating areas.
However, while surely a testament to Vega’s passion and dedication to her role, her lack of movement made the changes in time hard to follow.
The behind-the-scenes video production team certainly tried to aid the audience’s understanding of time, using the screen behind the actors to indicate the year. But in the time between— how were we to follow?
After an argument with her husband, Louis XVI—played eloquently by The Buccaneer’s very own Liam Bouza—Louis leaves the stage to get an operation. Not two minutes later, Marie is announcing her pregnancy, having never left the stage or changed outfits, and without the screen indicating that a significant amount of time had passed. I know a bit about the birds and the bees, and I must say…I don’t think Marie could’ve done it on her own.
Also—what was the deal with Marie and Louis’ relationship? Before the intermission, they had basically fallen apart along with their kingdom, yet after, they are a pair of runaways parading as a happy family. The audience gets no indication of what happened in between to bring them back together.
Despite the discrepancy in their relationship, Bouza played a marvelous Louis XVI. She exhibits the perfect immature boy that Louis is—but also his defeat. When he comes back with the flag of France, he is passionately terrified, a complete shift from the guy playing with clocks at the beginning. Bouza makes sure the audience can feel his loss.
We can also tell that Louis is made of great pride but great compassion, too. When their world is falling apart, he shares a glance with Marie as she stands with what the audience understands to be her lesbian lover—played by Kayori Hanna—and essentially gives her permission to say a proper goodbye.
As such, Marie passionately hugs her lover and is kissed on her forehead. My question for the director is—where is the kiss?
After attending rehearsals where Hanna and Vega practiced their on-screen kiss and I could feel the passion between them, possibly the most disappointing part of the show was that the kiss was cut. Where is the passion? That wow factor of Louis accepting that Marie had a true lover, that light shone on the lesbian love story—it was gone. That was possibly this show’s biggest letdown.
Perhaps the production team makes up for it in the end—in THAT moment. If you attended the show and didn’t stay to the end, let me tell you, you missed out. Let me paint the picture for you:
The screen rises up into the ceiling. Smoke covers the stage. Red lights set the dark, terrifying scene. Out walks Jayden Bryan as The Executioner, shirt off, axe in hand. He lifts his weapon and takes it to Marie’s neck— and even then, Vega dies elegantly.
But the elegant death isn’t what they end on. Denise Bedenbaugh appears on the screen—after an incredibly daunting performance as the revolutionary—and takes a bite into a cupcake. It’s just like Marie said—let them eat cake.